Scotland v South Africa Rugby Betting, South Africa -9 Stanjames, Scotland +11 victorchandler
Nov 17, 230pm GMT, BBC1
I have an odd feeling about this game. Based on last week and recent results you wouldn’t expect South Africa to run up a big score but they might just surprise alot of people this weekend. The game against Ireland was a dire affair and while they were rusty, South Africa were very negative and seemed intent on trying to take out the Irish players rather than just play the game. It gave the impression that South Africa were genuinely worried last week that they might lose. Had Sexton made that penalty just before half time they may indeed have lost – Ireland got cagey with only a 9 point lead though, and the rest is history.
One notable point about last week was Ireland’s inability to score a try (or even get near scoring one), with a very useful looking backline. After any initial minor breaks or go forward by Ireland, South Africa simply smothered any chance of further inroads. There were a couple of occasions where Ireland put some phases together but they were never really going anywhere. I’m comparing the backlines of Ireland and Scotland and I see no step up in class facing South Africa this week. There’s always Tim Visser but will he get the turnovers to score this week? I’m not sure. Plus, if last week is anything to go by, South Africa will probably target him like they did key Irish players last week – we all saw Pietersen’s yellow on Chris Henry (who had been having a great game up to the point he was nearly cut in two), and Johnny Sexton had to take it all game, from knees in the head to late charges off the ball. As Duckysauce said in our forum, Laidlaw will get the same treatment this Saturday and I’m not sure he’ll withstand it as well as Sexton did. The backup on the bench at ten for Scotland is very thin too.
In the forwards it’s also looking slightly bleak for Scotland. The South African pack will have shaken off the rust they had last week, and it’s far bigger than Scotland’s. Geoff Cross starts on the bench, and he was possibly Scotland’s best player last week. The All blacks simply had no answer to him on the burst and he was a huge reason they were able to compete last week in so many facets of the game. He’s on the bench because he’s carrying an injury, and you’d wonder whether he’ll get a run at all – it’s unlikely. Euan Murray starts in the front row and while he has had some great games in the past against South Africa, it will likely be a different story this weekend based on his form of the last two years and you fear for the Scottish scrum in general. To compound matters, gnarly backrow Strockosch (formerly of Gloucester, now part of a resurgent ball-playing Perpignan side) has been pulled as of Friday afternoon due to injury. He’s the man that Thompson semi-head-stamped last week, he’s a black-belt kung-fu master, and he’s well able for the rough stuff. Scotland will miss him, and it definitely weakens their back-row reserves against a powerful South African unit. Indeed the Scottish bench is nothing to write home about in general when you take the above into account. There’s very little impact and that’s a concern for the second half. The South African team is as strong as last week, but has a better front row with Steenkampf coming in. And the bench has plenty of impact – Heinke VDM and Brits coming in the front row on when things loosen up will cause alot of problems for Scotland. In our eyes, starting Steenkampf instead of the others means they intend to milk the scrum to get out in front early.
There’s three avenues that we deliberated over on this game. South Africa -9, South Africa 1-12, and South Africa half time handicaps. The stats in general point to South Africa eeking out a win of less than 12 points, and for them to start well and then to not have a great second half. This is based on the rugby championship in general, Scotland losing tight games to both England and France in the six nations, and on South Africa’s three games against England in June, where despite total dominance in the first half South Africa just weren’t arsed playing in the second.
On balance most of Saturday’s probabilities point to South Africa winning by 1-12 points but it’s a bet i’m not comfortable with as I reckon South Africa could really bludgeon their way even further ahead here. There’s revenge in the air, and like we said last week, it has played a big part in many games recently- look at France for example against Australia.
Main bet – (Medium stakes) Because of the scrum situation and because they won’t want to start off like last week, we’re taking South Africa -5 on the half time handicap at evens in Stanjames. It’s -5 everywhere else at 10/11 and you can get -4.5 in Bet365 at 4/5 if you don’t mind the return reduction for a point more safety. Looking at Scottish replacements there’s a line of thinking that the second half handicap of -5 would be the better pick but South Africa simply ease off in the second half of games, especially if they’re winning. This brings the SA 1-12 into play but you couldn’t count on Scotland reeling them back in again, and they may not get the turnover opportunities they got last week that brought two of their tries. It’s a bit of a minefield trying to figure out South African mentality, but after last week’s poor start, the best bet looks to be to expect a good South African first half as usual, and to not invest at all in an unpredictable second half, in which anything could happen.
Small stakes Tryscorer punt – Schalk Brits should come off the bench in the second half and he’s lethal in space. If things do loosen up (which they should) he’s a decent shot for last tryscorer, and he’s biggest 25/1 in Paddypower. Visser anytime tryscorer is a minor temptation but every single Scottish player has drifted out in price in Paddypower for the anytime tryscorer market so they don’t seem to be expecting any Scottish tries at all. Indeed, under 1.5 Scottish tries is as low as 4/9 in Ladbrokes.